Future Trends in Credit Card Customer Satisfaction

According to our 2012 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study released late last week, the competitive environment is stabilizing and credit card issuers are making substantial strides in improving areas that were previously problematic—particularly communication and problem resolution.  So, what comes next? How are customer expectations changing, and what are the implications for issuers? Where should issuers focus their efforts in the future?

1.  Digital channels and self-service

The shift to online use and away from phone and mail continues. Customers are performing more routine activities online, such as reward-related activities, and are contacting call centers less often with questions or requests and are beginning to seek answers via self-serve channels, such as online. In fact, data from our 2012 Credit Card Satisfaction Study indicates that customers are attempting to resolve problems on their own and are moving away from contacting the call center for simple problems, but contacting the call center to deal with more complex issues.


2012 J.D. Power and Associates U.S. Credit Card Custom Satisfaction Study©.  The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In addition, 7% of customers indicate using a mobile device to interact with their credit card issuer, and 5% have used social media for service transactions.  Another emerging trend related to the increased use of digital channels for routine transactions and greater reliance on self-service tools is that the issues about which customers contact the call center are becoming increasingly complex. This has important implications for the role of the call center and the requirements for call center representatives.

THE POINT:  Not only will issuers need to continue to commit resources to online as the workhorse for routine transactions, but they will also need to simultaneously invest in and develop these emerging online channels since customers prefer this method of communication above all others.  Knowledgeable employees that are able handle complex problems are a necessity.

2.  Rewards and Communication

An examination of recent success in the market, as defined by the highest-performing issuers, American Express and Discover Card, and the most improved issuers, Chase and Barclaycard, shows that two drivers of advantage in the past—rewards programs and customer communications—will continue to provide an expanding competitive edge in the future.


These above four issuers have excelled in providing superior rewards programs. They have increased the value of their rewards programs and reduced reward expirations and reward maximums. Overall, these issuers have significantly improved in satisfaction in  Attractiveness of the reward and Ability to accumulate points toward rewards. In addition, their customers have a high level of understanding of both how to earn rewards (69% “completely” understand) and how to redeem rewards (84% “completely” understand). Further, these issuers have also improved considerably in Ease of redeeming rewards.

THE POINTMake sure that Rewards programs are of value to customers and clearly communicate that value, as well as the terms of the program so that customers know HOW to earn and redeem rewards with ease.


These four credit card issuers have improved significantly with respect to customers’ understanding of card terms. Moreover, customers indicate greater awareness of card benefits and offerings, such as due date selection and service alerts. Additionally, satisfaction in Ease of understanding the rewards program and Extent to which your primary card communicates benefits to you has also improved significantly. Customers of the four issuers indicate the website content has improved both in clarity and usefulness of information. In part, improvements have been achieved by providing statements that not only include vital account information, but also clearly communicate such additional items as reward promotions and available benefits. These issuers have also taken advantage of the card application and activation processes to communicate and remind customers of card terms, explain rewards programs, and clarify benefits.

THE POINT:  Clearly communicate not only credit card terms, but also the card benefits and additional offerings such as due date selection, service alerts or rewards programs.  Customers should be reminded of card benefits often and encouraged to take advantage of them to enhance their overall experience.

3.   Public scrutiny of problems

Although problem incidence with credit card is relatively low, compared with other industries (11% vs. 21% for retail banking7 and 37% for small business banking8), the CFPB’s regulatory microscope on consumer problems and complaints, coupled with the media’s scrutiny of any financial industry problem, require that issuers apply a similarly disproportionate focus on the prevention and resolution of problems that formerly were handled behind closed doors. The CFPB’s release of individual credit card complaints to the public—amid concerns that some of the issues posted are unsubstantiated and/or contain incorrect information—heightens the need for the industry to remain diligent in their efforts to reduce problems, as well as be proactive in communicating those efforts.


J.D. Power and Associates suggests that credit card issuers target the following areas to fully understand customer needs, assess their current performance relative to those needs, and develop programs to address improvement opportunities:

  • Websites and online interaction will require continued investment and improvement to meet the standards customers have come to expect for their online credit card experience.
  • Emerging service channels, such as mobile and social media, will become more important as adoption rates increase.
  • The role of call centers and representatives will change as more routine transactions are handled in other channels leaving only the most complex problems to be handled by phone.

FOR MORE INFO regarding our 2012 US Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Study, please contact Holly Zagresky at (248) 680-6319 or via email at Holly_Zagresky@jdpa.com

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